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Implementation Guides

Role of the Service Learning (SL) Unit

The role of the SL Unit is to coordinate SL projects and assist academics from all faculties and campus to integrate community engagement into mainstream academic programmes and research.

Another role of the SL Unit is to nurture and develop mutually beneficial partnerships between communities, higher education institutions and the service sector.

The Unit also provides academics with the resources, materials and guidance in the planning, implementation, assessment and evaluation of SL projects.

How Does the SL Programme Work?

The SL project or programme is divided into three main phases:

  • The Planning Phase
  • The Implementation Phase
  • Evaluation Phase.

The activities which are linked to these phases are:

Planning Phase

  • Registration of SL project
  • Design SL curriculum
  • Establish mutually beneficial partnerships
  • Manage risk for students
  • Compile site visit schedules
  • Plan a budget and explore funding
  • Plan project assistance (lectures, community site mentors, group leaders, for example).

Implementation Phase 

  • Distribution of educational materials
  • Students implement on community sites
  • Students are monitored on-site
  • Assessment of student projects
  • Student reflection is conducted.

Evaluation and Review Phase

  • Partners reflect on the project
  • The project is evaluated and the project is revised
  • Reports are compiled and submitted
  • Research opportunities are explored.

Although the project activities are allocated to three respective phases, some activities can overlap depending on the nature of the project and the agreement between partners.

Service Learning Partnerships

Service Learning has a triad partnership model that consists of WSU staff and students, community partners and service providers (government departments and agencies).

These partnerships are based on mutual trust, respect and a culture of sharing resources, skills and knowledge.

The collaborative conceptualisation of projects involves consultations with all partners throughout the project's phases.

The purpose of tripartite partnerships for SL is:

  • To foster community empowerment and development
  • Transformation of the higher education system in relation to community needs
  • Service delivery to previously disadvantaged communities (JET, 1999, in Lazarus, 2001:1)

Partnerships are also developed between corporate and large community organisations in cases where additional funding is required.

Benefits of Service Learning for the Different Participants

Service Learning projects aim to be beneficial to all the parties involved - community partners, service providers and students.

Benefits for Students

  • Students learn to apply principles from the module/course to new situations. This means that students are provided with a learning synergy that enables them to value academic learning along with community-based experiential learning.
  • Their sense of social responsibility and commitment to the greater good is advanced.
  • Students are provided with opportunities for active learning and problem-solving through participation in the community (Howard, 1998: 23-24).

Benefits for Academic Staff

  • Service Learning allows lecturers to approach their curriculum creatively and in a way that can benefit both students and the broader society.
  • The role of the academic staff in the classroom is expanded from a provider of knowledge to a facilitator of critical synthesis and learning.
  • Lecturers are provided with opportunities for collaborative research on community development with internal and external partners.

Benefits for Community and Service Partners

  • Community development is enhanced through staff and student involvement; then students become more invested in the community.
  • The community builds links with higher education institutions and gets increased access to institutional resources.
  • The quality and efficiency of services offered to the community increases as the community and service agencies receive an infusion of creativity and enthusiasm from students.

Contact Us

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Contact Numbers:
Mthatha: 047 502 2100
Butterworth: 047 401 6000
East London: 043 702 9200
Potsdam: 043 708 5200
Chiselhurst: 043 709 4000

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